Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2011.01.05 Brenda Starr, Girl Reporter

On some Wednesdays I will let this blog have a little more length than the promised shortie post.

One of my childhood heroes just died. Brenda Starr, Reporter has just been discontinued as a syndicated comic strip syndicated. She was born just two years after I was.

I remember reading the comic strip. I waited for it to appear on Sunday in full color and read it even before Dagwood, mostly because I didn’t think Blondie was a very strong or dramatic woman of power.

Brenda Starr had mounds of flaming red hair and an hour glass physique. She could be glamorous, shapely, sexy—and also smart, sassy, and assertive with her talents. She wanted to be treated like the men. She fought for her place in the newsroom dominated by male reporters, all thought to be more capable than a woman at deciding what news was and writing with accuracy and flare.

Brenda Starr wanted a desk, good assignments, and the same money for her work as male reporters. I was gaga and imagined myself, pencil behind my ear, notebook in hand, and carrying a large camera with an enormous flash to catch the action shots.

I’d always loved to write and kept little diaries under lock and key. Perhaps I one day hoped that my writing would be public, would be paid, would be read and loved.

It’s funny that the things that attract kids are often attached to their gifts, vocations even. I mean how many 14 year olds read the Bible from cover to cover? I was looking for dating advice and got more than I bargained for. But what was I really looking for that I didn’t quite admit? (If one of my kids had been so compulsive about reading a lengthy document she couldn’t understand I might have suggested therapy!)

Brenda Starr was less complex and it was easier to get a newspaper job than to get ordained. There were no Brenda Starr look-alikes aspiring to be priests in the late ‘70s.

My first post-domestic job was as a reporter on a local weekly. I started attending boring town meetings, the worst being the Planning and Zoning Commission—easements, wetlands, little drama.

My inner Brenda came alive when I got assigned to do features. I wrote about daring feats like hang gliding from a local mountain, taking pinch hitter flying lessons in a small prop plane, tubing down the rushing Farmington River. Of course to be authentic like Brenda I had to do all these things and get someone to photograph me leaping off cliffs, standing next to a small plane or glider, encircled by a huge inner tube ready to follow the river’s twists and, incidentally, get my ass bruised.

The most fun was soaring, soundless flight viewing the terrain from heights manageable enough so I could see tiny houses and cars. Thrilling. A chief ingredient of the experience was to trust the pilot while having no idea in the world how he would bring this giant white skybird safely down—not on top of a tree.

A little like having a God’s eye view and somehow trusting without fear. Brenda wouldn’t have been afraid, and it is completely beyond me why I wasn’t. She didn’t give up on her self and her cause despite passionate dalliances, divorce and a daughter to raise. Neither did I. I found God, got ordained, wrote two books of midrashim, and now am tenacious about publishing my memoir.

Rest in peace Brenda Starr, Woman Reporter. You are remembered. Your guts and brains live on.